SSDI and COVID-19: How to Apply for Disability Benefits Now

After a year of challenges and uncertainty, the world is emerging from the pandemic. Even as the economy picks back up and life resumes some semblance of normal, for some people, the long-term impact of the virus on their health may persist for many years.

Doctors and researchers are still working to understand why many Americans are suffering from symptoms months after contracting the virus, as respiratory, mental and other chronic ailments continue to emerge. 

If you fall into this category or have another condition that could prevent you from working in the future, understanding how the pandemic will affect the process of applying and qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is essential.

As of yet, there has not been a spike in SSDI claims, but as COVID-19 and its variants continue to evolve in terms of health impacts, there are likely to be more individuals considering and applying for federal disability benefits, particularly as unemployment and economic impact benefits taper off. 

Distinct from private disability insurance, SSDI is a federal program insuring more than 156 million U.S. workers in the event of a severe, long-term disability that prevents them from working 12 months or longer. This insurance is paid for by workers and employers through FICA payroll taxes, and the program is administered by the Social Security Administration.

Delayed surgeries and checkups related to reduced health care access during the pandemic are likely to increase the severity of illnesses that already exist. This may ultimately lead to an increase in SSDI claims in the coming months, between long-haulers and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

Applying for SSDI Post-COVID-19

When you’re submitting a claim for SSDI, be sure to provide as much information to your doctor as you can. This can help with the documentation of your disability in your medical records. If you feel comfortable scheduling an in-person appointment, that is the best option, but even if telehealth is the route you’re most comfortable with, make the most out of the appointment by going over your symptoms and any other relevant information with your doctor in detail.

When more information becomes available about the long-term effects of COVID-19, the types and severity of illnesses will determine each individual’s eligibility for disability insurance benefits. But the quality of medical evidence about your condition is a significant determinant of whether you will be approved or denied for Social Security disability benefits, and telehealth visits can’t provide the same quality of evidence as in-person assessments.

Along with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 long-haulers and the factors important for processing their disability claims, the pandemic has made it more difficult for the Social Security Administration to operate at peak efficiency and productivity. Many SSA offices remain closed or only offer limited appointments, and there have been processing delays for SSDI as a result.      

Staying current on how the decisions and recommendations regarding COVID-19 long-haulers unfold will help make the process of getting SSDI benefits simpler and more expedient.

Pay Attention to the Details

Disability representatives are a great source of information on the topic, but do your own research as well, particularly with regard to how you can improve your experience through doctor support and documentation of the effects from your disability. This kind of information is crucial for a disability claim, whether or not your medical condition is connected to COVID-19.      

With that in mind, SSDI claims often are denied because the application contains mistakes or provides incomplete information, even if the condition would otherwise be approved. Contacting a disability representative is the best way to ensure that your application is completed correctly, giving you a better chance at receiving an approval and avoiding the time-consuming appeals process or a denial.

The Bottom Line on SSDI Today

Applying for SSDI can be a lengthy and involved process, but the benefits it can offer are more than worth the effort. The pandemic has undoubtedly added new obstacles for claimants, but they aren’t insurmountable.

Keeping up-to-date records of your medical conditions or symptoms, staying informed about the classification of COVID-19 long-haulers, and working with a disability representative are all simple and immediate steps you can take today to aid in the process of applying for SSDI, protecting both your income and your future.

Vice President, Allsup

Steve Perrigo, J.D., is Vice President, Sales and Account Management, for Allsup and has over two decades of experience and knowledge of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and its programs. He joined Allsup in August 2010 and helps clients understand their options when coordinating private disability insurance benefits with the Social Security program.  Prior to joining Allsup, Steve Perrigo spent 17 years with the SSA in various roles of increasing responsibility.


Over 50 and Considering Divorce? How to Prepare Financially, Pre- and Post-Separation

Divorce is becoming more common among people 50 and older – so common, in fact, that it has its own name: “gray divorce.”  There are often major changes to someone’s finances and lifestyle after the divorce, but the sooner you face your new financial reality, the better off you’ll be.

I once had a client who insisted her No. 1 goal after her divorce was never to be forced to sell her house and downsize.  At the same time, she wouldn’t listen to my advice to trim back her spending – such as vacations – in order to afford her house.  She kept up her pre-divorce lifestyle, and soon worked her way into a financial mess.

Unlike younger people who have the time to start over and rebuild their financial lives, those 50 and older have less runway to accumulate wealth.  For this age group, setting priorities and making key decisions will help protect and preserve their post-divorce wealth.

Prepare a List of Assets and Debts

For those who have decided to pursue a divorce, one of the most important early steps is to provide detailed financial information to your attorney. A family law attorney will want you to come prepared with a complete list of your assets and debts, as well as income and expenses. Remember, attorneys charge hundreds of dollars in hourly fees, so the more information you can provide them upfront, the less money you will spend gathering this information together.  If you don’t have a balance sheet documented, start now, and update it every year.

Compile the following information:

  • Assets, such as cash in the bank to retirement accounts, stock options and pensions, life insurance, primary and vacation home property values.
  • Debts, including amounts owed on the mortgage, home equity, credit cards and car loans.
  • Income items, which can be gathered from the most recent tax return or one about to be filed. Salary and bonuses, deferred compensation income, pensions, interest and dividends from investment accounts, rental income from vacation homes, and profits from a business are all income items that should be documented.
  • Most expenses can be gleaned from bank and credit card statements, or online bill pay records.  Make sure you know how to access online bank accounts, and download the past 12 months of bank statements.

Plan to divide expenses into two categories: fixed vs. variable expenses.  For example, if the mortgage payment is $2,500 and the car payment is $750, these fixed expenses should be factored into the settlement agreement.

Post-Divorce: Financial Do’s and Don’ts

After the divorce, there is a good chance each person will have fewer assets and possibly less income than when married.  This usually means financial adjustments need to be made to lifestyle spending habits.

It’s not as simple as taking the income generated by both people and dividing it by two.  Life will be different.  There are now two households instead of one, both with fixed expenses; an extra vehicle may be needed, as well as more insurance costs.

It’s important to understand the type of expenses your new lifestyle can support.  Here are some recommendations to help to adjust to a new financial situation:

Make a Fresh Budget

Make certain you can comfortably pay the necessary expenses – food, clothing, insurance, car, house – and leave a cushion for unexpected items.  Temporarily put on hold the idea of buying extra items – a brand new car or upgraded furniture. Don’t forget to factor savings into your budget.  For clients who receive alimony as part of the settlement agreement, we break it down between alimony used for living expenses, taxes and saving for the future. 

Create a Financial Plan and Stick to It

Determine what your new goals are – are they to stay in your home, travel more, be able to retire sooner? Map out your cashflows and see how much needs to be set aside for current living expenses vs. future goals.  Adjusting to a new financial reality means you may not have enough money to do everything you want, which is why prioritizing and making comprises are important activities. Stay the course – don’t change your mind or your financial strategy every few months. Revisit your financial plan every six months until you are very comfortable with how things are going for you financially. 

Look Closely at Your Housing Budget

With less income, there will likely be less money for a house payment, furniture and upgrades. If you were living in a $750,000 house while married, you may need to dial back to a home worth $500,000 or less to afford payments and expenses.  Housing is one of the largest fixed expenses in any budget, and you can’t buy groceries with the equity in your home.  Downsizing may give you the freedom to achieve other financial goals with fewer budget constraints.

Re-imagine Vacations

While everyone needs to get away from it all once in a while, don’t let this variable expense become a financial burden. Your family vacations may not be as glamorous on your new single income.  And it shouldn’t be a competition with your ex.  It’s better for your kids to see the reality of your situation and see how you are approaching it head on, and adapting, than turning your head away from reality.

Divorce is a major event that will change your life emotionally, psychologically and financially. Whether you end up separating or staying together, take time to better understand your financial situation now, so you can move forward with a financial mindset that will serve you in the future.

Partner and Wealth Advisor, Brightworth

Lisa Brown, CFP®, CIMA®, is author of “Girl Talk, Money Talk, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Money After College.” She is the Partner in Charge for corporate professionals and executives at wealth management firm Brightworth in Atlanta. Advising busy corporate executives on their finances for nearly 20 years has been her passion inside the office. Outside the office she’s an avid runner and supporter of charitable causes focused on homeless children and their families.


4 Ways to Avoid Post-COVID-19 Spending Guilt

Now that the pandemic is easing, we are beginning to spend again. After I was vaccinated, my friends and I took a long-awaited “girls’ trip” to Mexico. Prices were still low; each of us paid less than $500 to stay at an all-inclusive resort, and the memories we made are worth every dime. Fortunately, since there was no travel last year, I had accumulated a nice savings cushion and was still able to keep the balance of my savings intact.

Americans went on a savings binge after the pandemic struck in March 2020. Our personal savings reached a rate of 33.7% of income in April 2020 and stayed in double digits all year. But with the economy re-opening, people are going back to restaurants, concerts and ballgames – and tempting us with old habits.

While it’s ideal to continue saving aggressively, it’s likely not attainable as we return to a more normal routine. So, how do we navigate the balance of spending vs. saving? Maybe even more important, at least psychologically, is how do we make the right choices and not feel guilty about spending again?

Instead of feeling anxious about the shift from saving to spending, it makes sense to face this challenge head on. Here are four solutions to ease your financial fears.

Automate Your Expenses and Savings

We all know setting up and following a monthly budget can be time-consuming and exhausting. You try again and again to start that Excel spreadsheet or open your Notes app just to make a list of your monthly expenses. But it usually doesn’t work.

Instead, save time and money by automating your spending and savings. Nearly every monthly bill can be set up for automatic payment – car insurance, utility bills, mobile phone, rent or mortgage.

Tracking these expenses is relatively easy, and paying automatically helps avoid any late charges or fees. And these recurring charges will become routine. Instead of adding a line item on your budget, you can adjust to the typical amount you have left in savings for discretionary spending.

Automating your savings is even more important. The phrase “pay yourself first” is one of my favorites. Set a goal by selecting a percentage from each paycheck to go directly into your retirement account. If possible, I recommend saving as much as 20% if your budget allows it.

Select an amount that fits your budget. For example, if you were to have a salary of $100,000, the recommendation is to max out your retirement plan first. For instance, this could mean putting up to $19,500 in your 401(k) per year — or $26,000 if you are 50 and older. Even if this is not possible, the goal is to practice continual and standard savings.


While hoarding cash made sense last year, it’s not the best way to generate wealth over time. Savings and checking accounts do not keep up with the rate of inflation. So, while your bank is technically paying you interest, in reality you are the one paying.

The solution is simple: Invest. If you have around three to six months of cash built up in savings for your “emergency fund,” that’s plenty. Instead, shift your extra money over to a taxable or retirement investment account with exposure to the market. The average return for money invested in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index over the long term is about 10%, which beats sticking money in a savings account. According to the FDIC, the national average interest rate on savings accounts is an extremely low 0.04%.


While investing and saving are beneficial to your overall financial future, we must be disciplined in our spending ways. Did you spend money from your federal stimulus checks on new power tools you really didn’t need, or did you use it to reduce the financial and emotional burden of a student loan? Are there any debts or liabilities that you could pay off quicker by making one extra payment this year?

In my case, I’ve used much of my $3,000 in stimulus funds to move to a new apartment where I can work from home. In addition to a more spacious, comfortable place to live and work, some of this expense will be recouped since I’ll be commuting less. I’ve also bought new furniture that will last several years.

Weigh the pros and cons of your purchases. Try to think of money as a tool to reach your financial goals quicker. Whether it’s a stimulus check or a bonus, dedicate some or all of it to a pending debt or an investment account.

Accept the Return to Normality

The final and arguably most important solution to offset spending guilt is accepting how our lives will change. Last year, all of us were cooking nearly every meal at home, letting the dirt and grime build on our cars and skipping the latest fashion trends. Who cared about clothes when we didn’t see anyone anyway?

But now times are different. It may be time to refresh that neglected spring and summer wardrobe. Or, your kids may have those summer leagues and camps to attend, which will cost money. The expenses you have now will most certainly not mirror this time last year and the only way to move past this truth is to accept it.

By taking the steps laid out here – automating finances, investing for the future and practicing discipline – you can breathe that sigh of relief knowing your financial affairs are still in order. Any pop-up expenses are inconsequential now that you have single-handedly positioned yourself for success.

Take a moment to recognize the amount change we’ve all endured within the last year. You lived through a huge moment in history, and your life moving forward will be impacted by this pandemic. Use this time to recognize that the shift in your budget means higher expenses, so make good spending choices. But with a solid financial plan in place, there’s no reason to feel guilty for spending wisely.

Wealth Planner, McGill Advisors

Caroline W. Huggins (“Callie”) is a wealth planner with McGill Advisors, a division of Brightworth.  She is based in Charlotte, N.C. Prior to joining the firm, she received a master’s degree in financial planning in 2020 from the University of Georgia (UGA) and a B.S. in psychology/minor in sports management. Callie works closely with the firm’s partners and wealth advisers to develop financial plans for professionals and corporate executives seeking to grow and maintain their wealth.


The Next Silicon Valley Must-Have? A Private Foundation

While the pandemic might have shuttered businesses across the country, Silicon Valley tech companies have defied the odds. In 2020, IPO capital raising hit its highest level in a decade. Start-up valuations soared, and blockbuster IPOs, like the one for Airbnb, created a bumper crop of wealth. But unlike previous iterations of newly minted money, the beneficiaries of this recent boom are forsaking the traditional private-island-and-jet splurge. Their new acquisition of choice could be a more charitable one.

Last year my company helped set up more new foundations than at any other time in our 20-year history – many for tech entrepreneurs and business owners planning for a liquidity event. And we expect that the ongoing wave of IPOs could fuel a surge in private foundation philanthropy, even as Brookings, NPR and others have documented a decline in spending among America’s most affluent households during the past year.

What, No Gold-Plated Yacht?!

Boom times in Silicon Valley used to be marked by lavish displays of excess, including the now-legendary wedding of Napster co-founder Sean Parker whose 2013 “Lord of the Rings” nuptials cost $4.5 million and featured a 9-foot-high cake and guest apparel by the film’s costume designer. So, why aren’t the beneficiaries of the current boom acquiring sharks with laser beams and other accessories for Bond-villain subterranean lairs? 

One possibility is that economic uncertainty has put a damper on lavish displays of conspicuous consumption. As recently reported in The Wall Street Journal, the so-called “smart money” is bearish on companies that have gone public through special purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs). Short-sellers have increased their bets to more than triple their value at the start of the year, rising from $724 million to about $2.7 billion. And broadly speaking, no one is sure whether the post-COVID economy will be characterized by unprecedented growth or inflation and sluggish employment rates.

Other factors, however, may be inspiring Silicon Valley’s latest crop of millionaires to seek gratification in philanthropy instead of consumerism:

Heightened awareness of increased need: While the gap between America’s haves and have-nots has been widening for decades, the gulf grew even wider during the pandemic. The weight of the crisis fell unequally on the vulnerable, with millions of Americans unable to afford or access even essentials such as food, health care, housing and broadband. Against a backdrop of endless lines for food pantries — even on military bases — extravagant displays of wealth may seem insensitive as well as immoderate. 

An attitude of gratitude: Aaron Rubin, a partner at Werba Rubin Papier Wealth Management, told The New York Times that this boom feels qualitatively different from previous ones. In addition to experiencing unease about the economy, his clients are expressing “more gratitude” and making more plans for charity.

Social crisis: In addition to COVID, racial equity, social justice and the political environment were at the fore of our national conversation. These topics got people thinking about how they could use their assets to influence society positively.

Generational generosity: Many Silicon Valley “techies” are Millennials. Fidelity Charitable’s survey, Entrepreneurs as Philanthropists, shows that in comparison to other generations, Millennials are relatively more philanthropic, more concerned about using their social capital and purchasing power to improve the world, and more interested in aligning their actions with their ideals. And they’ve been very responsive to the increased need as of late.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters of Millennials have sent financial aid to family or friends or donated to a nonprofit since the pandemic began, according to payment app Zelle’s September Consumer Payment Behaviors report. That’s the highest rate among any of the generations polled. 

The Tesla of Charitable Vehicles

It’s easy to see how the next wave of entrepreneurial business IPOs could fuel an explosion of interest in philanthropy; what’s less clear is how that interest will manifest. Although Silicon Valley has a very robust community foundation that serves the surrounding vicinity, not all of its Millennial philanthropists are likely to be content with solely meeting need locally. Nor may they be satisfied with giving only through a donor-advised fund (DAF), which, while popular for its tax advantages and ease of set-up, does not offer donors much say over their giving.

Consider these critical insights to how Millennials approach their giving, noted by the Fidelity Charitable survey:

  • While they are more likely than other generations to see giving as part of their identity, they also may have lower levels of trust in the nonprofits they support and are more likely to want to be actively engaged in the direction and use of their financial support.
  • Younger entrepreneurs see charitable giving as a way to build their reputation, with 84% saying they value giving as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the community.
  • Seventy-four percent value having their contributions recognized publicly, compared to only 19% of Boomers.
  • Millennial business owners are already planning their charitable legacies; nearly two-thirds plan to leave money to charity after they’re gone, versus 46% of Boomers.

The same study also notes that “Younger entrepreneurs are going beyond simple cash donations — both personally and in their businesses — and are giving in increasingly sophisticated ways.”

For all these reasons, a private foundation, which confers complete donor control and offers an almost limitless toolbox for creative giving, might emerge as the preferred charitable vehicle for this new class of donors who crave hands-on, out-of-the box philanthropy.

In addition to granting to publicly supported nonprofits, the type of giving permitted with a DAF, a private foundation is empowered to:

  • Give directly to individuals in need.
  • Make loans to charitable organizations and use the proceeds from the repayments to make other programmatic investments.
  • Invest in for-profit businesses to further a charitable purpose.
  • Conduct its own charitable programs and activities.
  • Give awards and prizes to spur progress.
  • Enter into binding agreements with grant recipients to ensure they use the funds as intended.
  • Dictate naming rights as part of a grant agreement and enforce adherence.
  • Deliver grant checks in person (e.g., at a fundraising gala).
  • Follow any investment strategy that complies with prudent investor rules.

Moreover, because a private foundation can be established to exist in perpetuity, handed down from one generation to the next, it might have a special appeal for techies who are intent on building an enduring personal legacy associated with lifelong philanthropy and social impact.

For some great examples of charitable efforts made through private foundations, visit here.

Foundation Source is the nation’s largest provider of management solutions for private foundations. We empower people and companies to create a better world with their philanthropy through a configurable suite of administrative, compliance, and advisory services complemented by purpose-built foundation management technology and private foundation experts.   As we celebrate our 20th year of service, Foundation Source supports nearly 2,000 family, corporate and professionally staffed foundations of all sizes and has enabled more than $7 billion in charitable grants. ©2021 Foundation Source Philanthropic Services, Inc. All rights reserved.

Chief Marketing Officer, Foundation Source

Hannah Shaw Grove is the chief marketing officer of Foundation Source, founder of “Private Wealth” magazine and author of 11 data-based books and hundreds of reports and articles on topics relating to the creation, management, disposition and transfer of wealth. Hannah has previously been the chief marketing officer at Apex Clearing, iCapital Network and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers and is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University. She holds the FINRA Series 6, 7, 24, 26 and 63 licenses.


Should You Invite Your Spouse to Join You in a Divorce Workshop?

As a financial planner, I participate in many different types of workshops, including for divorce. Due to the pandemic, these days they are usually webinars.  Divorce is no exception. Should you suggest to your spouse that they should join you in a divorce workshop? Or do you want to keep the information that you got in a divorce workshop to yourself?

As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I often answer complicated questions with “it depends.” However, for this question, I will just say, “Heck, yes, bring him (or her) along!”  People go to these workshops to learn how to get started with divorce. In the workshops that I run with Vesta divorce professionals, we equip attendees with the financial, emotional and legal information to help them make the right decisions about their marriage and their lives.

I recently recommended to a Vesta divorce workshop attendee that she come back to more workshops and bring her husband along. As it happens,  they are still talking, and my workshops are still Zooming. So, she might be able to get him there.

A Divorce Workshop Can Get You on the Same Page

The primary benefit of bringing your spouse to a divorce workshop is that you will start to get him (or her) on the same level of understanding about divorce issues.

The first step is understanding that divorce is emotionally difficult to negotiate for both sides. It is even more challenging if the two sides start from different vantage points. Just remember how you felt the last time you dealt with someone with a completely different perspective.  For example, think of the last time you tried to persuade your toddler to eat his or her vegetables.

You and your spouse cannot have all your questions answered in one workshop or a dozen. Divorce is way too complex for that. But you will both learn something. And most importantly, you will both hear the same information and may learn the same thing. And that can form the basis for a productive negotiation and path forward.

You Can Get Some Valuable Guidance

If you and your spouse do go to the same divorce workshop, take it a step further and ask the questions on the points you disagree about. At the workshop, you will get a neutral expert opinion that may be helpful. Some of the issues you could get some clarity on:

  • How to achieve financial success after divorce.
  • Planning for retirement with a lot fewer assets.
  • Whether you can or should keep your inheritance as separate property.
  • The challenge of introducing the “D” word to the kids.
  • The difficulties of comparing pensions to other assets in order to divide them up fairly.
  • The tax consequences.
  • The potential for a creative solution.

It doesn’t matter what the areas of disagreement are. You will both hear the same answer and have a starting point to move forward.

In war, you want to keep to yourself all the advantages that you can. Divorce may be war, but it is different in at least one respect: it pays to make sure that your spouse is as informed as you are, because that reduces your legal bills and gets you closer to the finish line faster.

Heck, it is also worth it to find out that your position might be incorrect. That too can form the basis for moving on.

You should note that what you hear in a divorce workshop can be great information, but it is not “advice.” Because every situation is unique, you will have to go back to a professional for objective advice. However, all journeys start with one step forward. Getting on the same page can be that important first step.

Founder, Insight Financial Strategists LLC

Chris Chen CFP® CDFA is the founder of Insight Financial Strategists LLC, a fee-only investment advisory firm in Newton, Mass. He specializes in retirement planning and divorce financial planning for professionals and business owners. Chris is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). He is on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation.


Your Daughter Will Thank You for Teaching Her These 5 Financial Lessons

Mother’s Day arrives this year amid mounting financial difficulties for women and girls. COVID-19 has driven millions of women, particularly mothers of young children, out of the workforce, leading to disproportionate female wealth loss and some of the highest unemployment rates for women seen in the 21st century. I’ve seen this firsthand in my work helping young people at Albert, a personal finance app whose customers (which skew 20-something and female) can text me and the other Geniuses for financial guidance. Since the pandemic started, I’ve gotten frequent messages from young women who are navigating unemployment or underemployment while simultaneously struggling with credit card debt, student loans and everyday costs, such as rent and groceries.

Mother figures are often our first teachers; they’re the ones who set us up for success in school, friendships and our professional lives. Because this is my first Mother’s Day as an expectant parent, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the many life lessons my mother taught my sister and me, especially when it came to saving, spending and budgeting.

While it’s important to teach all children about money, I believe it’s especially critical to give our daughters the money skills and know-how they’ll need to overcome financial obstacles later in life. For every person with a young female in their lives, here are five reasons to remind you why every teen and pre-teen girl should be taught about personal finance, paired with actionable strategies to set them up for a financially healthy adulthood.

1 of 5

To learn the value of money

A red change purse.A red change purse.

Learning the value of money as early as possible can help make sure that girls are set up for healthy financial habits later in life. I started learning about personal finance when I was 10 years old, thanks to my parents, who were both immigrants and had to learn all about personal finance on their own. They took a hands-on, “real world” approach to teaching my sister and me about how to manage our money (allowance) from our jobs (chores).

Have your daughter leverage the math skills she’s learning in school to make a monthly budget based on allowances, part-time jobs and goal purchases. There are several apps out there now that help kids get engaged and learn about money management — a few popular ones are Busy Kid and Savings Spree. Investing or savings challenges, such as Animal Crossing’s Stalk Market, can be another efficient way to practice these skills. Real-world activities can help pique her interest in personal finance early in life.

2 of 5

To nurture her independence

A woman wears a superhero cape that flaps in the wind.A woman wears a superhero cape that flaps in the wind.

The reality is that 56% of married women rely on their husbands and partners to make major financial decisions, which can hurt them financially in the long run. After almost a decade in asset management and entertainment finance, I began hosting one-on-one coaching sessions for women who were going through life transitions, such as getting married and switching jobs, to help them overcome money stress and become financially independent. I worked with several professional, savvy women who were worse-off financially than they should have been because they deferred to their spouses on money matters. I wish these women had had the confidence to assert their independence when it came to personal finance, but independence isn’t something that just pops up in adulthood — it’s a learned behavior.

How do we teach teen and pre-teen girls to value their financial independence?

  • If you’re a mom or female relative of a young girl, make sure that she sees you taking an active role in family finances alongside the men in your household.
  • Empower her now to understand that women shouldn’t sit on the sidelines in these matters.
  • Talk openly about money so she does the same with her friends and partner in the future.

If you teach her to understand personal finance and make her own decisions, she’ll keep that independence and confidence in adulthood.

3 of 5

To boost her STEM confidence

A young woman works on computer in front of a blackboard filled with formulas.A young woman works on computer in front of a blackboard filled with formulas.

Girls outperform boys in school, but they haven’t historically been encouraged to pursue careers in math and science as adults. There are many reasons for this, including gender discrimination in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, a lack of female mentors and role models in these fields, and a misogynistic culture that portrays math and science as inherently male expertises.

Many educational experts believe that the key to recruiting and retaining women and other groups underrepresented in STEM is to provide them with practical, real-world applications for math and science skills while they’re still girls. What’s more practical than money? I know from my personal experience that getting  teen and pre-teen girls genuinely excited about saving, budgeting and investing can also increase their engagement  in math and economics coursework.

4 of 5

To spark her interest in financial services careers

A female financial planner.A female financial planner.

Financial services has long been a male-dominated field, but it doesn’t have to stay that way! Your pre-teen daughter could grow up to be a fintech data scientist, a trader, an investment banker, a financial analyst, a CFP® or an economist. It’s essential to plant the seeds of interest now so that she’ll take AP Economics later.

The first way that I learned about and became interested in investing was through a stock market investing game planned by my dad. He told my sister and me to pick a company that we liked, and then he explained that we could have ownership in that company by purchasing a share of stock. I wasn’t even in high school yet, but I was fascinated by how the prices of stocks were constantly changing throughout the day. I’ve been lucky enough to work at some of the top financial services firms in the world, and my dad’s stock market game really piqued my interest in investing.

5 of 5

To avoid mistakes as an adult

A yellow road warning sign reads "Oops!"A yellow road warning sign reads "Oops!"

One of the most common financial struggles I’ve noticed in the women I advise is credit card debt. And because there are so many factors that put women at a disadvantage when it comes to money — like the wage gap and the pink tax — it typically takes them longer to pay off this debt. It doesn’t help that women tend to earn less money than men, and that we often save less, because we tend to incur higher expenses, especially health care expenses. The system is rigged against women building savings and paying off debt, which is why it’s essential to give your daughters the skills they need to thrive in a gender-biased economy.

This Mother’s Day is like no other, and I urge you to prioritize the financial education of your daughter at this time — it’ll bring you closer together, and one day, she’ll thank you for it!

Financial Advice Manager, Albert

Trina Patel is a Financial Advice Manager at Albert, an app that simplifies your finances and provides financial advice. She has over 10 years of experience in the financial industry, ranging from private banking to running her own financial coaching business, and she is passionate about helping individuals reach their financial goals.


How NFL Draftees Can Avoid Going Broke

Life as an NFL player can be interesting. For example, you get a reverse trajectory with your money — a lump sum of what could very well be your retirement savings, kids’ college funds, and mortgages all in one. 

Without careful management, former NFL players can end up in financial ruin and full of regrets. In the three years or less that the average pro NFL career lasts, players can expect to make about $2 million a year. As co-founder of Athlete Essentials — a wealth management firm with financial planning and brand consultant services catering to professional athletes — it’s been my experience that NFL draftees are usually not equipped to handle that kind of money or manage it well enough to last the rest of their lives.

The stakes are high. Together with weekly salaries, hefty bonuses and other payments, these players get one shot at setting themselves up for life.

While a solid financial plan backed up by strict discipline can help build a sustainable lifestyle for these players, they should also consider external support to achieve this lifetime goal.

The Problem with Professional Athletes and Money

Statistics suggest that up to 78% of NFL players go bankrupt or fall into severe financial stress within just two years of retirement. For basketball players, the figures are only slightly better at 60% of financial ruin within five years of retirement. 

A lot of money comes to draftees as a lump sum signing bonus, essentially front-loading their careers while they’re still getting their toes wet in the world. As a direct consequence, many of them fall into a lavish lifestyle characterized by million-dollar cars, mansions, extravagant parties and more. 

By the third or fourth year of their careers, players are already straining to live up to their former lavish lifestyle without their bonuses. This unsustainability spirals over time and creates a financial burden, even before players approach retirement.

Why Is This Happening?

It’s easy to pin this lack of financial wisdom on youthful age and lack of experience, but the problem goes deeper than that. The fact that this situation is so widespread in professional sports shows just how chronic this problem has proved to be. Even older players, who should know better than to blow their salary so quickly, are often grappling with personal expenses and draining their income through living an unsustainable lifestyle.

A complete lack of financial guidance contributes greatly to this problem. Given that successful athletes in the NFL and other high-paying professional leagues make up only a small percentage of the industry, there is little systemic support and mentorship available to them. Additionally, young players rarely have any teammates to model good financial decision-making from. With so few good financial role models, poor financial decision-making is often passed from generation to generation, thus continuing the cycle.

What NFL Draftees Can Do to Better Manage Their Finances

The challenge of financial management for NFL draftees and pro-league athletes is simple enough to diagnose. The solutions are also straightforward, although not so easy to implement.

Develop a Budget

According to Bleacher Report, former Lions wide receiver Michael Rothstein is one example of a player who has saved money for his family by sticking to a budget of $60,000 a year. While this is certainly a comfortable livelihood, Rothstein’s $3.6 million four-year contract left enough ensured that he could save the lion’s share of his income for the future. 

This is just one case where setting up and sticking to a strict budget can save the day for NFL draftees. CNBC also has a list of other pioneers who live like they’re broke to make the future brighter for themselves and their families. 

Work with a Financial Adviser

With all the money coming in, it’s a little hard to restrict yourself to a limited budget. A financial adviser is often the missing link to effective wealth management and investment in the future. 

Rich athletes will often retain the services of top financial advisers to help them manage their spending habits and store away the bulk of their earnings in a safe, prosperous investment portfolio. 

According to NBC Sports, veteran NFL safety Glover Quinn decided to save 70% of his after-tax income, which in total amounted to over $33 million. By maintaining a reasonable lifestyle, Glover will continue to enjoy a comfortable retirement, whether he works another day in his life or not. 

Treat Yourself, Then Save

Trying to ignore the urge to splurge is almost as bad as giving in to it. These young players are likely to cave in from pressure at some point, and the key is to control it. Thus, with the help of a trusted adviser, draftees can decide whether or not to spend big on meaningful assets, such as houses or art. 

Once this controlled spending spree is over, they will have a better chance of holding off and save money. Plus, these assets can be leveraged later in life as part of their investment portfolio. 

The Biggest Threats to Financial Prosperity for NFL Draftees

To NFL draftees, the biggest threat to long-term financial security is not the taxman. These threats to financial security often come wrapped in good intentions. 

One of these comes in the form of close family members and friends who often expect the rich draftees to fund their expensive lifestyles. With houses, exotic cars and strings of dependents, the money can run out quickly. 

The players themselves can also sign away a lot of their money when trying to invest in supposedly good deals. These investment opportunities often look good on paper but end up being massive losses. This is just another reason why the support of a financial adviser who can decipher good business opportunities and stave off money-hungry relatives can make all the difference. 

With all these, there is always the pressure to keep up with the extravagance of less prudent colleagues. For new draftees especially, it can be enormously tempting to “keep up” with the extravagant spending of your teammates, even if it harms your long-term wealth.

What NFL draftees and professional athletes need to know is how to live as if the last contract they signed is really their last. By counting their pennies, they can take a crucial step toward avoiding the terrible regret of a riches-to-rags story.

President and Co-Founder, R. L. Brown Wealth Management and Athlete Essentials

Ron L. Brown, CFP, is the co-founder of Athlete Essentials and president of R.L. Brown Wealth Management. He is an expert in wealth management, retirement planning, tax and estate planning, and business management. Ron takes pride in his work to support clients in reaching their individual financial goals. He graduated from Asbury University in 2003 and earned his CFP, Certified Financial Planner, credential in 2017. Learn more at and


4 Potential Problems with Equity Compensation, and How to Solve Them

Non-cash compensation might not sound like a very good deal for you as an employee — but depending on the type, it can actually provide quite a boost to your net worth over time. Equity compensation is a type of “non-cash” comp that your company may provide, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.

Equity compensation provides you with shares of equity in your company, allowing you to take advantage of potential upside growth. If the company as a whole does well, then you, as an owner of some of the equity in the business, do too through a rising stock price that can help lift the value of your investment portfolio and provide a profit if sold.

Common forms of equity provided to employees in compensation packages include:

  • Incentive stock options (ISOs)
  • Restricted stock or restricted stock units (RSUs)
  • Non-qualified stock options (NQSOs)
  • Ability to participate in employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs)

You may also see equity like phantom shares or performance units. Every company is different, so it’s important to understand what type of equity compensation you have if it’s offered to you.

Equity compensation can drive the overall value of your earnings and investments up — but that doesn’t mean it’s all benefits and no risks. There are serious problems that can crop up if you don’t manage this portion of your compensation well.

Here are four potential trouble areas to watch out for, and what to do about them:

1. Equity Compensation Introduces a Lot of Complexity into Your Financial Plan

While RSUs and ISOs may both be types of equity compensation, they are each very different. Even ISOs and NQSOs, while they sound similar, behave differently — especially when it comes to the tax implications of receiving, exercising and holding shares.

Every type of equity comp carries its own parameters and nomenclature that you must know. Failure to fully understand the nuances of the specific kind of equity you might have access to can cause serious issues down the road, including massive bills come tax time or missed opportunities if expiration dates come and go.

You should refer to your plan document to understand exactly what kind of equity compensation you have and all the rules around managing it. Some important terms and conditions to look out for may include:

  • Grant and vest dates
  • Strike price
  • Exercise date
  • Trading windows
  • Blackout periods
  • Lookback provisions and discounts (for ESPPs)

You might also want to discuss tax planning considerations with a financial adviser and a CPA. Not all equity compensation is taxed the same way, or even at the same time. ISOs, for example, may not be taxed when your options are granted to you … but RSUs are taxable the moment they vest and become yours.

2. Equity Compensation Isn’t Always Readily Accessible

Almost all types of compensation awards come subject to a vesting period. That means that equity compensation might be part of your compensation package from Day One … but until that equity actually vests, it’s merely a promise your company makes to uphold at a future date.

Vesting periods are often one to two years. During this time, things like stock options or RSUs are not technically yours, and you cannot sell them or rely on a particular value because the share price may change drastically during the period.

Even when your stock or options do eventually vest, your ability to act on them can be limited. Many come with stipulations around trading windows, which provide a limited amount of time in which you can buy or sell shares once you own them.

Vesting schedules or holding periods are not inherently bad things. They just need to be accounted for in your planning process. 

3. Have Equity, Will Pay Tax

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, especially on something that holds considerable value. The IRS will certainly want a piece of any appreciation or profits that come from your equity compensation, and you need to be aware of exactly how your specific type of shares will be taxed — and when.

Speaking with a tax adviser about your equity compensation can help you plan appropriately so that you are not taken by surprise when you file your taxes and realize you should have set aside more to cover the obligation created by a sale of equity.

Here are some things you may want to consider:

  • What counts as a taxable event, based on the equity compensation I have?
  • Are my taxes going to be significant enough to drive the decisions I make around equity compensation, or are other priorities more important?
  • Will I do a qualifying or disqualifying disposition for options that I exercise? What is the best course of action in the context of my whole financial plan?
  • When will I be subject to the alternative minimum tax, and how can I plan appropriately for that?

Finally, you may think you’re covered from a tax standpoint if taxes are automatically withheld before shares are granted to you. This can happen with vesting RSUs, for example. Your company may withhold up to 22% of the value of the shares to pay taxes, which might be sufficient … or it could be far short of what you actually need to pay.

Your actual tax rate could be above 30% because RSUs are taxed as ordinary income. If you’re already well-paid through your normal W-2 salary, the value of vested RSUs may push you into higher tax brackets, which will increase how much you owe.

4. Equity Compensation Can Create Concentration in Your Investment Portfolio

It’s very easy to amass a concentrated position in your company’s stock if you automatically have equity compensation coming to you through options, RSUs or shares purchased through an ESPP. Unless you actively manage this, you may end up overexposed to your company and with a far riskier portfolio than is appropriate.

We generally don’t like our clients having more than 10% of their net worth tied up in any one stock. Having this kind of concentration puts a lot of volatility into your investments, and ties your financial success to the well-being of a single asset or business.

If that business also signs your paychecks, that introduces yet another level of risk that your financial plan may not actually be able to handle.

It’s a tricky balance to strike, especially in some industries — such as tech — where paying employees in equity that tends to spike in value is the norm.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in this position? This is where a comprehensive financial plan can come into play. It provides you with an outline of actions to take based on everything else in your financial life, from your other assets and overall balance sheet to the goals you want to accomplish and what it will take to achieve them.

There’s no blanket piece of advice that works for everyone with equity compensation; you must consider all of these factors when figuring out to sell or hold your company equity as well as the right moves to make to manage it well over time.

Think about your goals and consider consulting both planning and tax professionals. Don’t take this decision lightly, because you have a serious tool at your disposal. Equity compensation can help significantly grow your wealth over time — but only if you properly manage the risks that it comes with on your way to enjoying the rewards.

Founder, Lake Road Advisors, LLC

Paul Sydlansky, founder of Lake Road Advisors LLC, has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. Prior to founding Lake Road Advisors, Paul worked as relationship manager for a Registered Investment Adviser. Previously, Paul worked at Morgan Stanley in New York City for 13 years. Paul is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the XY Planning Network (XYPN). In 2018 he was named to Investopedia’s Top 100 Financial Advisors list.